Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Twitter & tasting. How the beer dinner came about.

It began on Twitter. @CaribeBistro met @AleJail. Adam from Ale Jail had a question. Heidi (me) from Caribe tweeted back. And not long after he was eating our food; we were tasting his beer, and soon planning a beer dinner.

If you haven't heard the buzz on Twitter yet, we've teamed up with Certified Cicerone (similar to a sommielere, but of beer. There are currently less than 200 of them in the United States) Adam Schulte, of Ale Jail, to put on Caribe's first-ever beer dinner.

What's the big deal? Isn't it just beer and dinner?

If you're already a connoisseur of fine beers, you probably know all about beer dinners and food pairings, (and several of you have already made your reservations). But if you've never heard of a beer dinner, you're not alone.

Yours truly was skeptical at first when Adam first tweeted me a message, asking if he could bring by some beer to try with our food. I mean, my only prior experience with beer was with whatever was cheapest on a night out in college. I'm a grown up now. Beer? No, I'll have wine, thanks. I, after all, had graduated from the college days of quarter tapper nights and never looked back. Was I really missing out on anything?

And then Adam sent me descriptions of the beers he had in mind to maybe add to our menu. Here are a couple examples that piqued my interest:

Flat Earth Belgian Pale Ale:
Toasted biscuit malt meets banana, spice and floral hop aromatics. Caramel sweetness lends to a medium body before the beer dries on the finish. A very versatile food beer.

Lagunitas Maximus IPA:
Orange zest and herbal hop aromas combine with subtle malt sweetness and balanced bitterness. A powerful beer for powerful food. Try something spicy!

Whaa? Was this beer he was talking about? Add to this list a bright, effervescent, aromatic German hefe who's yeast swirls in the bottom of the bottle, a quadrupel made in the Netherlands by Monks, and a refreshing saison made in New York. Everything I (ignorantly) thought I knew about beer had changed.

Why April, 2011?

In all honesty, we hadn't considered looking into specialty beers since Caribe opened last year because, being such a small restaurant, we barely met minimum order quantities as it was with the more mainstream beers we carried. And, truly, we didn't know what we were missing. But Adam persisted and took it upon himself to not only bring us samples (that instantly won us over), but lined us up with distributors who could work with our "smallness."

We figured a new beer menu like this deserves celebrating. And what better way to kick it off, than to have Adam pair the new beers with a 5-course Caribbean dinner and talk about the beers at the dinner? Tony's prepared a fantastic menu, (which we'll reveal later on the website) and Adam will join us for the dinner to discuss the beers, fill your glass, and answer questions.

And, to make things sweeter, the dinner falls mid-April, which happens to be Caribe's 1-year anniversary. Another big reason we want to (need to!) celebrate this month.

Now what?

So where does this leave me? I've now tasted all the beers to be featured in the dinner (also shown and described here). I love the new beers. I can't wait to try them with various dishes on our menu. I'm no longer an ignorant beer-scoffing snob. I'm humbled, eager to learn more, and look forward to sampling more unique beers from Ale Jail, which, by the way, is an experience in and of itself. If you haven't been by the store, you're in for a treat. If you're not sure where to start, Adam can help you put together a custom 6-pack from the walls lined with beautifully labeled bottles you won't see in other liquor stores.

So that about sums up my enthusiasm! This beer dinner is more than just a pairing of fine beer and food, but a pairing of Tony's passion for Caribbean cooking, with Adam's passion for beer. One can't help but get caught up in the excitement when creative, delicious ideas collide. So much so, that I admitted to Adam how I was sipping some wine the other night and kinda wished it was a beer. "It's OK," he assured me, "it's part of the process."

More information

To get the word out about the dinner, we've been having fun with "the story"- beers escaping Ale Jail and taking Caribe hostage. Watch the site, as the story continues to unfold (was the chef really taken hostage? Or was he conspiring all along?) while we draw closer to April 18th.

The beer dinner is by reservation only. Tables are still available. Call the restaurant to get on the list: 651-641-1446

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